Two former Republican governors of Virginia are warning that repealing the commonwealth’s right-to-work laws, which most Democratic candidates for legislative seats have vowed to do, could have a negative effect on the economy and on workers’ rights.
Virginia’s right-to-work laws prevent an employer from requiring an employee to join a union as a condition of employment. These laws do not restrict a person’s ability to join a union and pay dues to a union, but just prevent them from being forced into one.
Former Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote an op-ed in The Virginian-Pilot on Wednesday that highlights his concerns about repealing the law. Former Gov. George Allen wrote an op-ed making similar arguments for the Roanoke Times on Oct. 9.
“Looking at the recently released CNBC rankings of Best States for Business, we find that of the top 21 states, 17 are right-to-work states. Between 2001 and 2016, private sector employment grew nearly twice as fast in right-to-work states,” McDonnell said in his op-ed. “The same results were seen in right-to-work states during that time period with lower unemployment, and higher manufacturing output, personal incomes and business relocations.”
In Allen’s op-ed, he said that compulsory union membership is a threat to individual liberty.
“Right-to-work is grounded on one of my passions in life – individual liberty and opportunity in a Meritocracy,” Allen wrote. “Americans must remain free to decide for themselves with whom they decide to associate. Unions are an important part of our workforce and can be a desirable option, but freedom of association is a just and essential human right.”
McDonnell served as governor from 2010 through 2014, when net private sector jobs in the state grew by 160,000. Allen was the governor from 1994 through 1998. He saw 312,000 net new private-sector jobs during his term.
Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, told The Center Square that both governors have first-hand experience about the importance of right-to-work laws for job creation.
“They both know that the presence of a Right to Work law is often one of the first factors a company considers before deciding to bring jobs to a state and that often states that lack Right to Work will not even be considered by companies looking to make significant investments that will create many good paying jobs,” Semmens said via email. “In fact, a 2017 survey from Chief Executive magazine showed that American CEOs prefer to add jobs in Right to Work states by a whopping 26-to-1 margin.”
Semmens warned that Virginia could miss out on future job opportunities because businesses would second guess moving into the state. He said that one of the main reasons that Amazon decided against locating half of its HQ2 project in New York is because the demands of unions and their political allies; Amazon did locate a portion of HQ2 in Virginia.
As The Center Square reported earlier this month, the majority of Democrats running for both chambers of the state legislature have said that they support repealing the state’s right-to-work laws, according to a survey from the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.
Every Democratic incumbent in the House of Delegates who answered the survey question said that they oppose the law; all but one Democratic candidate for delegate answered the same. Only four Democratic candidates running for state senate said that they support the state’s right-to-work laws.
Republicans have a two-seat majority in both chambers of government, but November’s elections this year could change the makeup.